Shared at his funeral in April 2006 at St. Michael’s and All Angels, with 200 of his family and friends.
I’m Susan. But Granddaddy always called me Suki. I’m the oldest grandchild. My memories of Granddaddy only go back about 40 years, but so much of who I am is because of who Granddaddy was, that I asked for the chance to talk to you about him.
My admiration for Granddaddy started very early. Mama tells a story about how when I was little, I asked her what God was like. She answered that God made the flowers and the trees and the birds…. and I interrupted. “Oh! God is like Granddaddy!”
I don’t remember saying that, but I do remember “Please Brer Bear, please lemme outta the bear trap!” My cousins will remember that, too. Granddaddy would grab us as we ran past him in his house, and grip us so tightly that we couldn’t get free. The only way to get out was to get still, and say those magic words – “Please Brer Bear, please lemme outta the bear trap!”. That’s my earliest memory of Granddaddy. A strong man, who loved to play with his grandchildren, with a style all his own – a combination of mischief and lesson and love, all rolled into one.
Even in recent years, when conversation was difficult, he entertained my daughter with odd noises that I remember fascinating me as a child. I never could figure out how he made them.
I have lots of good memories of being with Granddaddy. Flying kites at the beach. Learning how to play gin rummy. And dancing. I expect ya’ll have good memories too – of games of golf, Carolina football games, and cocktail parties. But I have other memories that are stronger. Memories that are now a big part of who I am.
“What’s the plan?” he used to say. When we all get together, his kids and grandkids, it’s important to have a plan, to know who’s going to do what, and when. So it was common at the gatherings to hear him say, “What’s the plan?” We’d figure it out, and you knew that everyone would get fed, and entertained, and whatever else – because we had a plan.
“Communication is the name of the game,” Granddaddy used to say. It was a gentle reprimand when one of us hadn’t communicated something, and that had caused a problem. Over and over, I find that Granddaddy was so right on that one, both in family and in business. It doesn’t matter if you’re doing the right thing, if you aren’t communicating it out to people so they know it’s being done. It doesn’t matter if you have good ideas, if you can’t or don’t communicate them to the right people in the right way, your ideas will go nowhere. Communication is definitely “the name of the game.”
And then there was his philosophy about careers. My stepfather, Greg, passed on this advice that he had gotten from Granddaddy, “Whatever you choose to do for a living, make sure it’s something you enjoy, something that makes you want to get out of bed in the morning.” That was a little surprising, I think. You might have thought that a CPA would advise his son-in-law to take a secure job, or one that pays well. But I think Granddaddy had it right. If you enjoy what you’re doing, you’ll do it well, the security and success are more likely to follow. But if you don’t enjoy it, the security and success really won’t matter. When I think about it these days, though, it’s more of an integrity thing. Being true to yourself, to who you are.
I recall visiting with a college friend from USC once, whose father was a CPA. I told him who Granddaddy was, and he told me that Granddaddy had a great reputation for doing it by the book. The IRS never audited a return that Granddaddy had done, this accountant said. They knew that they wouldn’t find anything out of order. I don’t know how much truth there was to that, but for me, it made sense. Granddaddy had that kind of integrity – doing it right, doing the right thing.
Other memories involve church. We often came to Columbia for the weekend when I was growing up, so I have lots of memories about Granddaddy and church.
Getting up to go to the early service with Granddaddy. I was usually the only one. At first, I think it was just a chance to be with Granddaddy all by myself. But something about that early quiet hour with God has stayed with me all these years. I’m still an 8 o’clocker.
Watching Granddaddy putting his pledge envelopes in the offering plate. I was so proud when I got a job, found a church, and started pledging too – I called him right away. It’s still one of my favorite parts of being successful, being able to contribute to the church, and to God’s work in the world.
Watching Granddaddy serving as lector. I think almost all of us have followed his example, his kids, and his grandkids. Church, to the Stith kids, is more than just a place to go on Sunday morning — it’s a community to be a part of. When I later learned that Granddaddy had helped to found St. Michael’s, I admired him even more, and it’s given me an even loftier goal for my involvement.
I suppose it’s natural that I should look up to my granddaddy. But when I look at all the faces here, I know I’m not the only one. Granddaddy was a good man. A good businessman. A good friend. A good father and grandfather and great-grandfather. So I’d like to ask you to do this, while we honor his memory and offer his life up to God: Spend a little time revisiting your own memories of Talcott Stith, and think about how God worked through him to help you “do all such good works as God has prepared for you to walk in.”
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